Va. cops shoot, kill hammer-wielding woman

As she she tried to escape, the 22-year-old nursing student had dragged one officer into the street with her car

By Elisabeth Hulette
The Virginian-Pilot

NORFOLK — The woman shot by police in Ocean View on Saturday night has died of her injuries.

Tynisha J. Townsend was a 22-year-old nursing student who moved from Chicago for her husband, who is stationed with the Navy in Norfolk.

They have two children.

"Now they have to go and spend the rest of their life not knowing their mom," said Valencia Burton, Townsend's mother.

Police are not releasing the name of the officer who shot Townsend as she dragged him into the street with her car.

The incident was the second time in the past few days that police were called to the 200 block of West Bay Ave. for a report of a woman brandishing a weapon, police spokesman Chris Amos said.

The first time, officers realized Townsend had a felony warrant for a domestic assault. They tried to serve it, but Townsend got away before they could.

The second time, they were determined that wouldn't happen again, Amos said.

About 5 p.m. Saturday, they returned to the apartment complex for a report of a woman wielding a hammer. They found Townsend seated in a parked car.

Again she tried to escape, but the officers stopped her.

One tried to get her attention on the passenger side while the other reached in the driver's side window, trying to turn off the engine, Amos said.

Townsend bit him and tried to roll up the window, trapping part of his upper body inside. Then she drove out on West Bay Avenue, a road several lanes wide that leads to Gate 4 of Norfolk Naval Station.

"His position was such that he couldn't just pull out, particularly with a car that's moving," Amos said. "It happened a hundred times quicker than you can say it."

As the officer was dragged out into the street in front of The Gates of West Bay apartment complex, he turned and fired his gun at Townsend.

That's when the neighbors noticed. Jackie Sullivan said she heard a bang and thought it was thunder.

She went outside, but instead of a storm, she saw police officers near the small, white car, trying to stop Townsend's bleeding. Sullivan ran inside and brought out towels to help.

"I heard somebody screaming," Sullivan said. "I don't know whether it was the lady or the cop."

Townsend was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with life-threatening injuries. A bout 1:30 a.m. Sunday, police announced she had died.

The officer was treated for the bite and minor scrapes. Amos said he spoke with him early Sunday morning.

"He's taking it very, very hard," Amos said.

The Norfolk Police Department doesn't intend to release the officer's name. He'll be put on administrative duty, Amos said, which is standard procedure. The commonwealth's attorney will determine whether it was a justifiable shooting after the homicide unit completes its investigation.

Burton, who lives in Illinois, said her daughter was a straight-A student in Chicago. She had a big heart and loved her children.

"I don't know why they had to shoot my daughter," Burton said. "She had a hammer; they had a gun. That seems unfair to me."

Pilot writer Patrick Wilson contributed to this report.

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